PSA: Apple Watch Series 4's fall detection is off by default for most people

Posted:
in Apple Watch
If you're a new Series 4 owner and you've been trying without luck to test its fall detection feature, there may be a good reason -- it's probably turned off.

Apple Watch Series 4


Apple doesn't go out of its way to highlight this, but unless your age is 65 or older when you set up your Watch and/or the iOS Health app, the feature is off by default. This is presumably because Apple's fall detection algorithms aren't infallible -- on a support page, the company warns that physically active people are more likely to trigger false alarms. Those three sets of burpees could wreak havoc.

If you do want fall detection on, there is a way of manually enabling it. Launch the Watch app on your iPhone, select the My Watch tab, then tap Emergency SOS. You'll see a toggle for the feature with a description.

Apple Watch Series 4 fall detection


Aside from the annoyance of false positives, there's an important reason you might want to leave fall detection off. If it senses a fall and you don't respond within "about a minute," a 15-second countdown will start, after which your Watch will sound an alarm, message your emergency contacts, and call emergency services. Even if you don't get into trouble with the authorities, your friends and family are bound to panic if they think your life is in danger.



Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,077member
    I would HOPE that most people under the age of 65 (and especially much younger) are active enough that fall detection HAS to be disabled to prevent false positives.   

    If you are not, then god help you.  Get moving.
    tzmmtzwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 18
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,283member
    eriamjh said:
    I would HOPE that most people under the age of 65 (and especially much younger) are active enough that fall detection HAS to be disabled to prevent false positives.   

    If you are not, then god help you.  Get moving.
    I'm very curious to see what the limitations of this feature is. I hope AI (or someone else) does an in-depth series of tests to see exactly how it works. Regardless of your age, falling from a ladder when cleaning your gutters is still a potential problem.
    repressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 18
    nhtnht Posts: 4,228member
    I'd like crash detection...between bluetooth and my phone the watch should be able to know I'm in my car...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 18
    eriamjh said:
    I would HOPE that most people under the age of 65 (and especially much younger) are active enough that fall detection HAS to be disabled to prevent false positives.   

    If you are not, then god help you.  Get moving.
    What about younger physically handicapped people?
  • Reply 5 of 18
    ivanhivanh Posts: 208member
    I believe fall detection algorithms is a firmware feature of watchOS 5. Apple should not restrict it from Apple Watch Series 3, since watchOS 5 is free.
  • Reply 6 of 18
    hentaiboy said:
    eriamjh said:
    I would HOPE that most people under the age of 65 (and especially much younger) are active enough that fall detection HAS to be disabled to prevent false positives.   

    If you are not, then god help you.  Get moving.
    What about younger physically handicapped people?
    Hence the fact you can turn it on if you need to? It's not like Apple uninstalls the feature, it's still there, and you have the option to turn it on if needed/wanted.
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 18
    I've already had a false positive for a fall.  I was square dancing.  It really only amounts to walking around in various circles, with some twirling and slapping of hands.  I have no idea what specific action caused the alert.
    repressthisspace2001jony0
  • Reply 8 of 18
    ajmasajmas Posts: 548member
    bonobob said:
    I've already had a false positive for a fall.  I was square dancing.  It really only amounts to walking around in various circles, with some twirling and slapping of hands.  I have no idea what specific action caused the alert.
    Probably based on sudden change in acceleration and possibly it isn’t very good at detecting the direction of the acceleration? 
  • Reply 9 of 18
    rwesrwes Posts: 154member
    ivanh said:
    I believe fall detection algorithms is a firmware feature of watchOS 5. Apple should not restrict it from Apple Watch Series 3, since watchOS 5 is free.
    Watch Series 4 also has an updated accelerometer, used in part to help aid in fall detection.
    randominternetpersonllamawatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 18
    ivanh said:
    I believe fall detection algorithms is a firmware feature of watchOS 5. Apple should not restrict it from Apple Watch Series 3, since watchOS 5 is free.
    The main star of Fall Detection is a new, more sensitive, accelerometer in S4. 
    StrangeDaysllamajony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 18
    I found that doing a very low impact home improvement project around the house set off the fall detection a dozen times, I had to turn it off to prevent an ambulance from showing up and charging me hundreds of dollars!  It needs some kind of sensitivity adjustment.  Fall Detection as it is is for VERY inactive people. 
    randominternetpersonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 18
    I found that doing a very low impact home improvement project around the house set off the fall detection a dozen times, I had to turn it off to prevent an ambulance from showing up and charging me hundreds of dollars!  It needs some kind of sensitivity adjustment.  Fall Detection as it is is for VERY inactive people. 
    Not if you live an area that has cold, winter, icy climates. Slipping on ice and getting hurt while shoveling the driveway isn’t that uncommon.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 18
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,730member
    Soli said:
    eriamjh said:
    I would HOPE that most people under the age of 65 (and especially much younger) are active enough that fall detection HAS to be disabled to prevent false positives.   

    If you are not, then god help you.  Get moving.
    I'm very curious to see what the limitations of this feature is. I hope AI (or someone else) does an in-depth series of tests to see exactly how it works. Regardless of your age, falling from a ladder when cleaning your gutters is still a potential problem.
    True, but I probably wouldn't be wearing the watch while doing dirty or risky chores where I have a better than normal chance of damaging the watch. Hope somebody hears my screams when I fall off the roof.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 18
    ivanh said:
    I believe fall detection algorithms is a firmware feature of watchOS 5. Apple should not restrict it from Apple Watch Series 3, since watchOS 5 is free.
    Well then you’re quite wrong, in the name of conspiracy. As explained in the media event, it uses their new gyroscope which is twice as sensitive as before.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 18
    mike1 said:
    Soli said:
    eriamjh said:
    I would HOPE that most people under the age of 65 (and especially much younger) are active enough that fall detection HAS to be disabled to prevent false positives.   

    If you are not, then god help you.  Get moving.
    I'm very curious to see what the limitations of this feature is. I hope AI (or someone else) does an in-depth series of tests to see exactly how it works. Regardless of your age, falling from a ladder when cleaning your gutters is still a potential problem.
    True, but I probably wouldn't be wearing the watch while doing dirty or risky chores where I have a better than normal chance of damaging the watch. Hope somebody hears my screams when I fall off the roof.
    I would, because the sapphire crystal screen won’t scratch and the steel case won’t chip. Gutter cleaning and ceiling painting (12 foot) is exactly what I have in mind for this. 
    edited September 24 watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 18
    gordygordy Posts: 961member
    eriamjh said:
    I would HOPE that most people under the age of 65 (and especially much younger) are active enough that fall detection HAS to be disabled to prevent false positives.   

    If you are not, then god help you.  Get moving.
    People who live alone--especially if they have stairs--will enable this feature at any age. Life happens.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 18
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,679member
    This feature Is really useful for its intended purpose but the false alarm rate could render it a major annoyance for emergency responders. Imagine a bunch of college kids at a frat party on a Friday night wearing these. Whew. Perhaps they need to conditionalize it based on other sensor inputs. For college kids, a blood alcohol analyzer sensor might work. Seriously though, the false alarm issue needs to be dealt with asap.

    Apple should actively promote the Apple Watch within the medical community to help patients of any age who are at risk of falling. 
    edited September 24 watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 18
    eriamjh said:
    I would HOPE that most people under the age of 65 (and especially much younger) are active enough that fall detection HAS to be disabled to prevent false positives.   

    If you are not, then god help you.  Get moving.
    You're saying that normal people should be regularly doing activities that fool the AW into thinking they have fallen?  You either have a low opinion about how well the AW4 can detect a fall (which is reasonable since we don't have any real world experience with it yet) or you have a very different idea about what normal people do.  I'm reasonable active, but don't participate in contact sports.  I can't think of the last time I fell down--where I would throw out my hands to brace for impact or throw up my arms in surprise (part of the triggers for identifying a fall).  If the algorithm works correctly, it shouldn't be triggered by running or playing tennis or swimming, etc.
    watto_cobra
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